900 Poplars losing their place in the Dutch landscape

Rows of poplar trees have had a place in the Dutch landscape for many years, often in hard straight lines cutting across the fields or following a road or lane.  The poplar though as a tree is it would seem, losing its popularity and the rows of spectacular verticals set against the horizontal landscape are increasingly being removed.


Near where I live in the centre of the Netherlands one of the most spectacular avenues in the country is living on borrowed time. Some 900 trees are due to be removed over the next couple of years.  The landscape on the edge of the town of Wageningen it is fair to say, won’t be quite the same without them.  Writers, artists, photographers, runners, birdwatchers, sound recordists and others have contributed to a new book that reflects on the trees, there presence in the landscape, their importance to us and ultimately what their removal will mean to us.

pruned tree

Wim Huijser and sound recordist Henk Meeuwsen have taken the lead in assembling the book, but I too have contributed to “Het ruisen van de populieren”, or in English, “The Rustle of the Poplars”.

There can be few landscapes around the world that are as manipulated and carefully managed as the Dutch landscape.  The presence of man and the control he exerts is almost always present, sometimes subtly, sometimes in a more extreme form. My manipulated photograph for the book connects with this and the way the landscape forms the scenery for our lives.

Bilingual education conference, Utrecht – Art and Language


Once every two years bilingual education in the Netherlands gets together for a session of reflection, evaluation and workshops aimed at enthusing all of those involved. As the Arts subject coordinator I am tasked with leading a workshop specifically aimed at the arts teachers present. For those who were there, and those who weren’t, the link below will take you to the PowerPoint that I made use of.

Presentation Utrecht 2015

I appreciate that the images without the explanation isn’t always going to be clear, but if there is anything that you desperately want more information about don’t hesitate to say so, either through the comments option on this blog,  my school email (p.sansom@maaslandcollege.nl) or via the contact page on my website: www.petersansom.nl

For those of you who were there thanks for your active participation and enthusiasm. I find myself wondering every time how much to try and cram into a sixty minute session, especially in the context of what is an incredibly intensive day with all the other workshops and presentations. I assume that there will be another subject meeting in a years time, most probably again in Utrecht. That is also likely to be more of an afternoon filling session, with as a result much more time for discussion and sharing of ideas, I hope to see you there!

“I didn’t realize I could see such an amazing painting here!” – Museums in difficult times

“I didn’t realize I could see such an amazing painting here!” I paraphrase a pupil on a visit to the museum that s ten minutes walk from the school. I visited the museum with one of my classes yesterday afternoon.

IMG_1192The last few years have been difficult times for many a museum. Maybe not so much for the flagship national collections that can be assured of drawing in the crowds to their highly prestigious exhibitions or remarkable collections. But for the more provisional museums, operating on small budgets seeking to make ends meet and still provide relevant and engaging exhibitions. For these institutions the all too familiar downturn in arts funding of recent times has been very much more challenging.

One such museum is the Jan Cunen museum in the relatively small Dutch town of Oss, the town where I also teach. Set in the grandeur of a nineteenth century town house it has provides a venue for a dose of art and culture for numerous visits with my classes over the past years. Thankfully it is still providing this opportunity as a couple of years ago the very existence of the Jan Cunen was on the line. Although with decreasing resources the possible programming of the museum has been greatly affected and as a consequence the chances for the teenagers I teach to see high quality, regularly changing exhibitions of contemporary art has been particularly reduced.

IMG_1194The importance of such visits is only too clear when you show up with a well prepared class to an appropriate exhibition, as I did this afternoon. We were visiting a single (albeit large) artwork in the context of the role of the remix in the artistic world. The work in question is Pizzeria Vasari by the Dutch artist Gijs Frieling. His painted installation is in essence a remix of a whole range of his own artistic interests and influences. The photos and film with this post give a little insight into the actual form and appearance of the piece.

To engage the attention of the class of fifteen year olds in this case I simply provide them with a list of references to look for, followed by a short series of questions to ponder concerning the ‘borrowed’ nature of Frieling’s imagery, the fact that much of his painting is carried out not by the artist but his assistants and the pure technical ability and ambition of the artist(s).

After that I had to do very little, answer an occasional question, point out particular details, but essentially the sight line of the pupils went up to the painted areas of the walls and they set about exploring this complex work.

This sort of firsthand engagement is crucial, to lift them away from the reproductions and online materials that we normally have to rely on. It brings a sense of wonder and connection that is difficult to simulate in the classroom and a recognition that art has a place in the real world. And perhaps here lies the importance of the provincial museum, it puts art and culture into the pupils’ own real world, the day to day world that they live in. Art and culture isn’t just for those days out in Amsterdam, Paris, London………